This one was a semi-quicky which sort of got fleshed out more than
I originally planned to. I had been thinking about writing a story about
a sting ray for a while, originally it was going to be a manta ray - they
are so cool. I saw a few on a holiday, but then I was staring at some
sting rays when I was snorkling and this just popped into my head.
The Ray of the Future By Wolphin. In hindsight I shouldn't have gone out there, but I desperately needed fresh air. The party in the lounge had gone on way too long and I was paying for it now. I should have gone up to the main decks, but I was crew and we had pretty well free run of the ship. One of the engineers had shown me this spot, nestled out of sight on the stern, used for occasional loading and unloading at sea. It was a few meters below the other decks, but under them, so strangely secluded from the rest of the ship. It felt so tranquil out there. Alone, three in the morning, just the distant rumbling of the engines and constant murmuring of the sea for company. I stepped forward, put my weight on the railing and breathed in a huge mouthful of fresh sea air. Then the railing collapsed. Suddenly I was tumbling through the air. Strangely, as I plunged through the air towards the churning mass of white water below I was thinking how stupid I had been for not checking the railing. The fall was a quick one and I hit the water with a splash. Somehow my body had prepared itself and the warm water almost seemed inviting, like going for a swim. A few moments later however, my opinion changed. The wake from the propellers was like being in a washing machine. I had no idea which way was up, every time I thought I was making headway I was suddenly sucked back down. My struggles began to fade as my clothes began dragging me down, desperately I tried to pull my arms and legs free of their restrictions, but my strength was waning. I was becoming confused, too weak to fight against the currents that fought for my body. Darkness, when it came, seemed almost a relief... I do not know how long it was before I awoke. The sun was high overhead as I looked around in weakened astonishment. I was alive! Gradually I forced myself to sit up, feeling every muscle in my body protest. I was on an island. A very small island. I climbed to my feet, tottering around, a little unsteady as my body rebelled. It took a conscious mental effort to pull it into line. AS I have said, it was a small island. About the size of a football field. Low too. I stumbled part way across it, reaching the highest part. A healthy three foot above sea level. From the lack of trees and struggling bits of greenery, I could tell this island had fought a few battles with the sea itself. Regaining strength with each step, I began to explore. I had nothing else to do and no place to go. For a change, luck was with me, stepping back onto the sandy beach, I found a number of coconuts half buried in the sand. It took a large amount of persuasion, but I finally managed to crack one open. The sweet milk inside was better than the finest wine I had ever tasted, the pulpy flesh could never be matched in any restaurant. My hunger and thirst sated, I continued my explore. Quickly realising the island was more heart shaped than round, the pointy end tapering around in a long curve, sheltering a shallow lagoon from the usually gentle pacific. Remembering some long forgotten documentary, I realised there would be food with the shallows and waded in. Almost immediately I spotted some giant clams which closed as my shadow passed over them. Small fish darted out of the way and movement around small patches of coral caught my eye. It was towards one of these patches I was travelling when I felt it. A sharp, stabbing pain on my ankle. I let out a cry, jumping back even as the unseen ray dug itself out of the sand and disappeared into the deeper water. By the time I reached the shore, the wound was beginning to ache. I knew that stings were rarely fatal, but very painful and I began to prepare myself. I had no idea what to do, so I just planned to grit my teeth and bare it. I cleaned the hole with a strip of my shirt as best I could and just sat back to wait. As the sun dropped over the horizon, it began to throb. That night I can only describe as hell on earth. I have no idea how long it lasted, but once the toxins began to spread, it invaded my body like wildfire. There was no moon that night, but I kept imaging my legs were swelling up, my joints quickly became inflamed and too stiff to move, so I had precious little to gauge how I was. The ache in my legs quickly developed into a throbbing which pulsed with each heart beat. I felt the venom spreading, moving up towards my torso before being pumped to all my extremities. As it did, I began to loose feeling and sensations from parts of my body. My arms began to feel weak and hard to move, I had trouble holding my head up, my legs turned rubbery and my spine ached. As the throbbing increased, I slipped into blissful oblivion. When I awoke many hours later, with memories filled of tortured dreams and painful awakenings, I blinked slowly. My body still hurt, but not as bad as before, the aching seemed also soothing in comparison. Tentatively I reached out and tried to pull myself up, having difficulty as my arm did not seem to want to obey my commands. It was slow to move and seemed clumsy, the sand between my fingers feeling different. My skin felt dry and I found myself crawling towards the water edge, somehow reasoning the warm sea would soothe it. As I entered the tiny ripples part of me was amazed how good it felt, another part of me confused I was here at all. I remained there, half in, half out, of the water as the sun rose, feeling the miniature waves roll over my back. As the sun's rays crept over the water I began to be aware of something more about me. The pain from the sting had almost passed, but my body continued to feel, different, almost as if something was missing. My mind idly pondered what that could be as my legs trailed in the water, they seemed to be moving much more freely than I expected. Turning my head to look at them I gave a gasp of surprise. My arms were spread out on either side of me as I lay flat on my chest, but now a huge flap of skin joined them to my body. My fingers had somehow expanded, lengthening while it looked as if my belly had flattened out, joining the underside of my arms. I gave a strangled cry in horror, forcing myself to roll over. As my backside brushed the sand I gave another gasp, this one in pain as something seemed to crunch against the unforgiving bottom. Instinctively my arms brushed down, providing lift which picked me up and carried me to deeper water. Puzzled, I left my arms out at my sides, it seemed comfortable that way, the flap of skin rippling uneasily, holding me steady. It was only about chest deep here, but it gave me a chance to check out the rest of my body. My legs dangled beneath me in the crystal clear water. They looked too smooth and with another shock I realised my knees had somehow disappeared. Even as I looked, I could see my ankles and feet being literally dissolved, flattening out like the rest of my body. As my legs were changing, a flash of light caught my eye and I realised it was a tail. My tail. Long and skinny, with a point, it tapered down from the base of my spine. Thinking of my spine, I could feel it changing, some how flattening, elongating and a scrap of flesh became visible, lengthening down from my back. Then my belly began to join in, pulling itself down, in a grotesque manner, absorbing what had been my thighs, leaving less than half my legs in the open. The small remained of my lower half quickly merging with my moving flesh, creating two fins which began to undulate on their own as I sunk in the water. My underbelly began to tingle, the blood flowing from it, turning it pale as it continued to grow. I looked at what had become of my arms, thinking that, for some reason, they were now referred to as wings, as my top side began to darken. I felt something tugging at my head and began to moan as it was pulled back. The moan abruptly silenced as I slipped beneath the water surface. Breathing in water felt strangely familiar and it was not until I realised what I was doing I began to panic. This lead to me taking a gasp and I felt the thin gill openings spread across my belly, dispersing the water. Mentally forced myself to calm down I tried to remain calm as I felt my head continue to lengthen. My eyes bulged, the underwater world suddenly gaining clarity as I looked around. I could see both my wings stretching off to each side. Experimentally I tried to flap them, marvelling at how I sliced through the water. My underside was now invisible to me as I sank to the ocean floor. The feel of the sand felt good against my now rough skin as my tail tingled, a second spine emerging from it. Its length at least as long as my body. I became aware of new senses, tiny electrical impulses of frightened creatures and I found myself mashing up small shrimp which wandered too close without even thinking about it. My teeth obliging rounding into something more suitable for grinding. Inhaling sand through my mouth I exhaled again, feeling my gill slits flare as the water flowed through them. Flapping into deeper water I rippled the edges of my body, digging into the sand, quietly waiting for prey...